On a scale of one to ten...

That's what they always ask you: Where is your pain on a scale of one to ten?
The question, of course, is, what's ten? I imagine ten to be Joan of Arc at the stake. A man being hanged. Amputation without anesthesia or even a bullet. I don't know ten. I don't ever want to know ten. And if ten is supposed to be the worst pain I've ever felt, what use is that? How can every patient's ten be the same?
The better scale is the FPS-R (Faces Pain Scale-Revised).

When Nurse L was trying to assess my Taxol-induced bone pain, I said it was a three. Then I described the pain to her and she said it sounded like ten. Again: compared to what?
Cruel and unusual, J mused when he was 12 and in the hospital for the sarcoma that eventually killed him. Unusual punishment, he said--they could put you in a room filled with butterflies. That's unusual.
And what's worse than a root canal is a dental implant, which I am in the middle of experiencing. On Thursday the periodontist pulled out the remains of tooth #19 (penultimate molar on the left side) in two pieces, and then drilled a hole in my jawbone and stuck a post inside.
Later the dentist will connect another post to the top of the internal post and then fashion a crown around it.

Meanwhile, my bone is supposed to welcome the new foreign body into my skeletal system. It will become part of me, by osmosis. (Not really, but by ossification.)

The periodontist gave me a prescription for 18 tablets of 600 mg ibuprofen (one refill allowed) and yes, 14 antibiotic capsules, a strange one I've never heard of: Clindamycin. It's a turquoise bullet. The last day my jaw has ached. How much? Sometimes in the whimper stage. That's the only way I can calibrate pain. First there's Complaining then Whining then Whimpering then the Fuck! stage and then Crying, though saying Fuck! and crying can come upon you at the same time. Then there's Weeping. Even in yoga I've felt that Fuck!/near-crying pain in my hips when we do variations of the lunge or runner's pose.
I had decided to call the periodontist and tell him about my pain. I would also have to tell him about the disappearance of the thread he used to make stitches. The thread was loose last night and then (as dumb as it sounds) I chewed on it until it broke and now there is no thread. It was supposed to dissolve.
I had decided to break out the codeine but after ibuprofen I'm back in Complaint only.
Elaine Scarry wrote about pain. I read some of her book, The Body in Pain, several years ago. From a quick look at reviews and summaries on line: She says that it is so very difficult to describe pain, that pain leads to destruction that "unmakes" the world.
The opposite of creative, generative. Pain is negative proliferation, creation turning in on itself, crabbed, deformed. Pain sounds a lot like cancer, like evil, the void taking over.
Pain, as Snoopy once said, hurts.
L's mother wouldn't take her pain pills at first. Then she did.
Our friend B had a hernia operation then came here a few days later. This was in spring. He wouldn't take pain medicine because he wanted to feel how strong the pain was.
I'm as curious as the next person but after I feel pain I want to get rid of it. Now. The ibuprofen dulls the ache some, but there's still the underlying pain. How much? Does it distract me? Yes. But then I'm easily distractable. Is it making me complain or whimper? In between. Maybe I will try the codeine tonight, left over from some other procedure. We do have well-stocked shelves of medicine, we have much to offer in the way of relief. And we will not be too proud to use them.
Meanwhile, my itching is starting up again, a side effect of my polycythemia vera, my blood disease. Sometimes the itching is mostly burning and it so painful and inremitting that I feel despair. Which is not a stage of pain, but something altogether different. And now I will take an Atarax and the itching will fade and disappear and I will go to sleep.


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